Off-Season Work Paying Off for McGee

There were a couple of areas of his game that IU-bound forward Brandon McGee wanted to improve over the summer - ball handling and perimeter shooting. The 6-7, 210-pounder from Chicago's Crane H.S. talks about what he did in the off-season, and how it's paid off so far...

A summer of hard work is paying off for IU-bound Brandon McGee.

The 6-7, 210-pound forward from Chicago's Crane H.S. set about to improve two areas of his game – ball handling and perimeter shooting. He's reaping the rewards now as he leads one of the Chicago Public League's best prep teams into the meat of their 2006-07 schedule.

McGee is averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds for Crane, which is off to a 6-2 start and ranked 23rd in the Chicago Sun Times Super 25 poll. That includes a 33-point, 12-rebound effort in a game IU Assistant Coach Ray McCallum watched from the stands.

"People who saw me last year, they'd say ‘I heard Brandon McGee was a good post player, I've heard he can shoot the 3, but I haven't seen it yet,'" McGee said. "Now, they come see me play and they see I'm more than just a post."

The improvement came as the result of same long summer hours. McGee said he'd get up every morning and dribble with his off hand to strengthen his ball handling, and then head to the gym with an assistant coach to get up as many as 500 shots per day to work on his perimeter game.

In between shot attempts, the assistant coach would stop McGee and get him to focus on keeping his elbow in or flicking his wrist more or getting more arc on his shot, all in an effort to give him a chance for a big senior season and to better prepare him for Indiana.

"It took a long time to get 500 shots up, but it's really paid off," McGee said.

McGee will put those skills to the test over the weekend, when Crane participates in the 16-team Chicago Public League Tournament at Chicago State University Jan. 4-6. It's a loaded field that includes some of the top programs in the city (including No. 1 and nationally-ranked Chicago Simeon) and a handful of elite players from the city including Memphis-bound Derrick Rose (Simeon), Mike Stovall (Whitney Young) and DeAndre Liggins (Washington), among others.

This weekend's tournament will serve as a good measuring stick for McGee's Crane squad, which has visions of making it to Champaign, Ill., later this summer once the state tournament gets underway.

Once his prep season concludes, he'll turn his attention to preparing for his future as an Indiana Hoosier. He'll arrive in Bloomington as a player who could help at a variety of positions, particularly on the wing or at power forward.

"The thing I really like about Brandon McGee is when I watched him play…I have a tendency to compare kids that I coached in the past, and he has a lot of Eduardo Najera in him," IU Coach Kelvin Sampson said last fall. "Brandon doesn't really have a position. He can play just about anywhere you like him.

"When he was at our elite camp in August, the thing that jumped out to me was his feel for the game, the way he makes people better with the pass, a good rebounder, good shooter - he could just think the game at a high level."

That sort of versatility was a big selling point for Sampson and his staff, and McGee is excited to be coming into a situation where he hasn't been pigeon-holed into one spot on the floor.

"Some people go to college not knowing what position they are going to play, but it's great to play the 3/4, and you can score just about anywhere on the floor," McGee said.

He'll also be arriving as part of a highly-celebrated five-person class that also features Eric Gordon, Jamarcus Ellis, Jordan Crawford and big man Eli Holman. McGee had the opportunity to see each at various times during their AAU summer experiences, and thinks this class is more than deserving of its top-five national ranking.

"I'm really excited - I've seen all the players play and I'm really impressed," McGee said. "We're going to come in and do some great things. I think we can make IU a much better ball club."

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